How to warm up?

A correctly conducted warm-up has a very positive effect on training effectiveness. Although many people don't take the topic seriously, and the term “warm-up” is often used very loosely, it should be an integral part of any training session and take about 10-15 minutes. In this article, you will learn why most people aren't warming up properly and how to fix it.

The benefits of warming up

The most important advantages of warming up are:

  • increasing the amount of synovial fluid in the joints,
  • increase in body temperature,
  • stimulation of nervous system,
  • widening of blood vessels,
  • metabolic targeting for resistance training.

Warming up prepares you not only physically but also mentally. The nervous system is heavily overloaded during hard training. Preparing the body for exercise is a very smart move. The combination of physical and mental effects of warming up has a significant impact on reducing the likelihood of injury and reducing the severity of the impact of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). 

In other words, warming up has a positive effect not only on the body but also on the mind. The time you invest in warming up is an excellent investment that pays off not only during training, but also long after. Performing a warm-up isn't a sign of being a novice. On the contrary – it characterizes a person who is serious about training and wants it to be as effective as possible.

The most common mistakes

No warm-up of the trained muscle part

Very often, the only form of warm-up performed by people exercising in the gym is a few minutes of jogging on a treadmill or any other aerobic exercise on a cardio machine. It turns out that such a warm-up performed before strength training as the only form of preparing the body for exercise gives little more than nothing. This is definitely not enough to recognize that the body is ready to perform weight training.

Too long warm-up

There is a group of people who spend so much time warming up that it even becomes tiring. Running on a treadmill for 20 minutes and then doing a 40-minute set of mobilizing exercises before squatting is a simple waste of time when it comes to warming up. Exercises that mobilize the muscles are great and worth doing, provided that there are individual indications for it and they don't take too much time. In addition, too long warm-up makes us achieve a counter-productive effect – instead of being more efficient in training, our efficiency drops due to fatigue.

Too much emphasis on "core" exercises

Yes, you need a strong core to do a lot of different exercises, but that doesn't mean you need to spend a lot of extra time training it.

Research shows that any exercise in which the hip joint performs its full range of motion always involves the core to a large extent. Therefore, if you have a well-structured training plan and follow it, your deep muscles will develop and become stronger in direct proportion to the rest of your muscles.

Too much emphasis on static stretching

We've always heard that we should statically stretch before exercising. It turns out to be basically useless. Research has repeatedly shown that stretching before exercise doesn’t reduce the risk of injury. One of the reasons for this is that many of the muscles and connective tissues involved in the exercise can’t even be stretched, such as the iliotibial band, which is simply inelastic and too stiff to stretch.

Stretching won't improve your efficiency either. In fact, research shows that stretching a given muscle in one position for more than about 60 seconds before performing an exercise can even reduce your performance.

One reason you should include muscle stretching (which won't impair performance during exercise) in your warm-up routine is because it helps you improve your technique. For example, if stretching your arm muscles helps to get them into the correct position for squats, it makes sense to do it. Before training, however, it's worth doing dynamic stretching. If you want to learn more about dynamic stretching, see the article on this topic.

This doesn't mean, however, that static stretching has no place in training. It turns out that it can contribute to the improvement of strength results.

Using too heavy loads

Some say that starting a workout with heavy weights will improve performance. The theory (post-activation potentiation, PAP) is argued by the fact that this approach mobilizes the nervous system to act and prepares it for an even greater effort to come. As interesting as the theory sounds, there is no convincing evidence that it actually works. There are also no guidelines on how such activation should take place. So, since there are no clear benefits or devised workflows, it's fair to say that it doesn't make much sense to include PAP in your warm-up routine.

Proper warm-up

A properly conducted warm-up should consist of three parts:

  1. General warm-up to raise body temperature.
  2. Dynamic stretching of muscle parts that will help to maintain the correct technique of a given exercise.
  3. A specialized warm-up to open the nerve pathways, supply blood and activate the muscles concerned.

The general warm-up is to raise your body temperature. Muscles that have a higher temperature are more flexible and less likely to tear.

When stretching before training, use either a dynamic range of motion stretch (hold the stretch for 10 second) or pulsatile stretching. Tightening a muscle before stretching it allows you to increase the range of motion.

Specialized warm-up refers to performing warm-up sets before the work sets. The number and type of warm-up sets vary depending on the planned volume of the exercise. Generally, more warm-up sets – two to four – are required before work sets with heavier weights. Likewise, a large number of warm-up sets aren't required for light sets – as a rule, one or two will suffice. It's worth adding that there is no need to perform warm-up sets before each exercise. You should only do them before the first basic exercise in training a given muscle part.

Below is a simple and effective warm-up routine you can implement before your base exercise:

  • 12 reps / 50% of your target weight / 1 minute rest,
  • 10 repetitions (slightly faster pace) / 50% of your target weight / 1 minute rest,
  • 4 reps / 70% of your target weight / 1 minute rest,
  • 1 rep / 90% of your target weight / 2 minutes of rest.

The rest time in the above routine is the perfect place to introduce mobilizing exercises.

Warming up in this way will certainly help you build muscles and strength faster, as well as increase training efficiency.


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  2. Herman, K., Barton, C., Malliaras, P., and Morrissey, D. (2012, July). “The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review”. BMC Medicine, 10(1): 75.
  3. Law, R. Y. W., and Herbert, R. D. (2007). “Warm-up reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness but cool-down does not: a randomized controlled trial”. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 53(2): 91-95.
  4. McCrary, J. M., Ackermann, B. J., and Halaki, M. (2015, July). “A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury”. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(14): 935-942.
  5. Yamaguchi, T., Ishii, K., Yamanaka, M., and Yasuda, K. (2006, November). “Acute effect of static stretching on power output during concentric dynamic constant external resistance leg extension”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(4): 804.